‘I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of drought and flooding rains.’
Those lines, written in 1904, are so famous they border on cliché. But after completing this trip, I reckon they have a clear ring of truth to them. Simple words that do so much to describe our massive, wild country.
I started off in the dry west, where the sun shone day in day out, the sky was always blue. In Margaret River there was a heatwave, with three or four days close to forty degrees. The forests of the whole south west are suffering for lack of rain, and it’s not forecast to get any wetter.
In three solid days I inched over the plains of the Nullarbor, so flat so empty so wide.
I saw the mountains of the Stirling Ranges in WA, the Flinders Ranges in South Aus and the Snowy Mountains in New South Wales. I’ve climbed their peaks, admired their curves, slept under their stars.
The day I drove into Victoria it rained steadily. Through Murray farming country I took back roads to avoid the road trains and caravans. The following day I arrived in Griffith NSW and it was still raining. Bitterly cold, hard little rain drops. I was hoping to find some fruit picking work, but I was disappointed. One reason, I was told, was that only eight weeks before, Griffith – as well as a big slab of the state – had been underwater. Biggest flood on record, pretty much. Sandbags in the main street, people evacuated. Towns up and down the rivers were the same. The Murrumbidgee had risen and risen and nobody knew when it would stop.
No work for me, so I drove through Wagga Wagga and into the Snowy Mountains. It was grey and misty, light rain dripped now and then. I hiked through wet forests with bird calls echoing around the empty valleys. Bell birds, crows, a lone black cockatoo.
At Yarrangobilly there’s a thermal pool. On a cold grey afternoon, with the sound of a stream riffling away behind and a misty rain falling, I floated around in twenty seven degree water that was rising from somewhere deep below the earth’s surface.
And I camped in the snow, it was hard to believe. It felt so recently that I was in that Margaret River heatwave, though that was many weeks and many kilometres earlier. There I found myself pitching the trusty stingray tent in a field patched with snow and ice.
I hit the east coast at Tathra and headed up to Bateman’s Bay. The next day there was a severe weather warning and we were battered by one hundred kilometre an hour winds, flash floods and fallen trees. The ocean became a roiling mess of flying froth and thundering waves.
Up the green south coast I went, where friendly locals told me the best spot to paddle out, a night in the lush Jamberoo valley, a hike in the cold Blue mountains, then on busy highways back to the old stamping ground, where towns and people and cars hustle busily together. I made it home.
On the trip I’d not heard the news of the world. I wasn’t much interested. My world was simple, uncomplicated, involving what I would eat that day, what I might like to do and where to go. The snippets that came my way, I felt I’d rather not know. The looming industrial development of our wild places – The Kimberley and our very own Great Barrier Reef under threat, and the ground beneath our feet in the eyes of the coal seam gas corporations. Who comes up with these ideas?
Australia, you’re my country and I love you.
You are an amazing land, there’s no doubt. You are powerful, colourful, and diverse and I hope to heaven we don’t ruin you.
Sunrise, Bibbulmun Track WA
Banksia Man Party, WA
Lucky Bay, WA
Shark Bait Surfing, Eyre Peninsula SA
Flinders Ranges, SA
Snowy Mountains, NSW
South Coast NSW
That’s the last of my entries describing my trip across the country. I guess I’ll now move on to writing about random things.
Thanks for reading, hope you’ll stick with it!